Pakistani troops gain control of northern militant-held towns

Security forces have overrun two militant-held towns in northern Pakistan after fighters loyal to a pro-Taliban cleric fled, the army said Thursday. Over the past two days, troops have swept into the towns of Khawazakhela and Matta in Swat district, a former tourist destination, where supporters of fugitive cleric Maulana Fazlullah have taken up arms since July, an army statement said. Security forces also captured four suspected militants near Mingora, Swat's main town, where Fazlullah has called for enforcement of Islamic law. With Swat under curfew, security forces were consolidating their hold on Khawazakhela and Matta, combing the areas for militants, land mines and booby traps, the statement said.